Percussive FM

Note: Although I am using the FS1r, drum-patching techniques at the basic level are applicable to any FM synthesizer. I’ll demonstrate this along the way by replicating the results in a common VST FM synth.


I can’t be the only person who has bought the FS1r with honourable intentions, only to throw it occasional guilty looks and daydream about a knobbier interface. This incredible synth deserves a better fate. Indeed it should be a centrepiece.

So a little effort is in order to finally transform this oft-impenetrable beauty into a studio workhorse. FS1r will be my new drumsynth, and here’s how it’s done.

FM offers more detailed sound design options and better precision than analogue synthesis. Of course it can get complicated. As demonstrated in the Grokking vids, it would take me several years of daily use before I could hope to attain the quality of the stock pianos and formant choirs. But drums, bass and pads are another matter, as they are relatively easy to set-up as templates, laying a fertile foundation for experimentation.

The only niggle about using the Yamaha synths for drums are the linear envelopes. However, with up to 8 operators per voice (+8 noise generators on FS1r), all of which have their own level and pitch envelopes, we can more than account for this shortcoming. Throw-in the FS1r’s filter and its killer FX section for an endless supply of great drum sounds, as I hope to demonstrate.

For presets, FS1r uses ‘Performances’, each of which comprises of four voices of full 8-op FM + Filter + FX routing. I will create a template drum Performance using the software editor, but with the intention of making this irrelevant for use. The mysteries of the front-panel interface will melt away as you will gradually see how well designed it is, in spite of it’s tiny footprint.

Voice 1 will be the kick, voice 2 the snare, 3 the Hihats and 4 for toms/congas and other chromatic drums. The front knobs provide 8 sources for strategically-mapped parameters. Simply put, the entire character of the kit can be changed with a couple of knob tweaks.

FS1r has 2 stereo outs, so the 4 voices can be hard-panned to send them to their own output for external processing. However I will mix the drums in-situ for these demos, whilst availing of the in-built FX mixer.

The unit is sequenced with the Midibox seq4.

This project will be short, but it’s going to be fun!
🙂

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